South Shields Local History Group

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Ford, Kitty (Nurse)

Catherine Ford was born in 1921. She lived at 84 Egerton Road South Shields.

Kit started her training as a nurse on the 1st April 1940 at Sunderland General Hospital and stayed there until 30 September 1943.

Kitty 1940 (Ford family)


When the large department store Binns was bombed in April 1941 in Sunderland the huge amount of flying glass meant there was large numbers of casualties.

Binns (Sunderland Echo)
Binns (Sunderland Echo)
Binns (Sunderland Echo)
Binns (Sunderland Echo)
Air Raid Precautions ARP with stretchers

As most of the doctors had gone to the war Kit had to administer considerable assistance.  Kit said that the ARP Wardens (Air Raid Precaution) would bring in the wounded and mark on their foreheads with the letter M if they had given them Morphine for the pain.  One of the jobs was pulling the glass out of their bodies. There were many people in Sunderland who owed their lives and limbs to Kitty that day.

Kitty 1943 (Ford family)


Kitty completed her nurse training on 30 September 1943 and became a Staff Nurse.  She then started her midwife training at South Shields General Hospital.

Midwifery 1944

She then moved to Carshalton in Surrey to complete her midwife training in August 1944.

This was the period when the V1 “Flying Bomb” or “Doodlebug” was been launched against London, Surrey suffered a large proportion of these bombs and her hospital called St Helier was even painted grey to try and disguise its presence!  This hospital was hit twice by flying bombs in June 1944 causing damage estimated at £130,000.

V1 bomb
St Helier hospital

It was during the war that Kit often told the tale that “she had to deliver babies in the underground with her gas mask and tin hat”.

Fever Hospitals

In 1947 Kit moved to Darlington Fever Hospital to study fevers for a year then worked at fever hospitals in York and Sunderland.

Darlington fever ambulance (Ford family)

Most areas had Fever Hospitals or Isolation Hospitals before the war they were largely used for children who had fevers such as Scarlet Fever and Diptheria mainly but also Typhoid, Polio and Smallpox.  My Mam and my cousin Leslie caught Diphtheria about this period and one of Leslie’s school friends died of Diphtheria. Fever Nurses would also contact these fevers and so it was hazardous work and difficult to recruit Fever Nurses most of these Fever Hospitals became integrated into the newly formed NHS after 1946 and improvements in immunisation and antibiotics saw a decline in Fever Nursing.

Whiteleas hospital sign

In South Shields we had the Whiteleas Smallpox Hospital which closed about 1953 and the Deans Isolation Hospital (for non-Smallpox cases largely Tuberculosis).

Deans hospital (South Tyneside Libraries)
1943 (Ford family)

The “Brain Drain”

Kit nearly joined the “Brain Drain” when she almost went to New York to become a nurse at the Mount Sinai Hospital this is America’s most famous hospital and one of the world’s leading teaching hospitals it still operates today.

Mount Sinai hospital
1953 (Ford family)

South Shields Hospital

Kit started working at South Shields Hospital in 1949 and returned to the family home at 315 Stanhope Road.

Health Visitor

In 1955 she became a Health Visitor.

Health Visitor 1955 (Ford family)
Midwives (Shields Gazette)

Abortion was still illegal in the UK and Kit would often tell the tale of pregnant women cycling down steps or throwing themselves downstairs to miscarry, back street abortionists proliferated with non sterilised implements being used, septicaemia (blood poisoning) or haemorrhage (bleeding) and death was not uncommon.

She once told me that “she had delivered half the villains in South Shields and if she had not done her job so well the crime rate would be half as well!.”

In 1977 she was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Commemorative medal.

1977 (Ford family)
Kitty 1990s (Terry Ford)

On Tuesday 27th August 2019 at 10:50 Kitty died peacefully in her sleep of Alzheimer’s disease.

Terry Ford (nephew)

Ford family
South Tyneside Libraries
Sunderland Echo

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